Hearings Held for Recreation Areas

Two hearings that will effect lake front areas in South Haven were held last week. Both are for improvements to park land and both were approved to be submitted for funding to the Department of Natural Resources’ Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF). Matching funds from local agencies are required.

Syndicate Park

On Monday, March 24, the Van Buren County Commission held a public hearing on proposed stabilization of the Syndicate Park dune area adjacent to Northpoint Preserve in a critical dunes area. Here a large dune area is eroding and moving east at over 4 feet per year and threatening to bury several homes; all as a result of heavy use by visitors to the park and ORVs.

Syndicate Park residents stated their strong support for stabilizing the dunes. However, they are concerned that the managed trail system will bring more visitors to the area. On the other hand, they want to keep a trail for access to the beach and would like that to include ORVs.

The residents and others from Bloomingdale area agreed that the property should not become an ORV park, which of course is NOT the intention of the county. The intent is to restore the dune and offer a managed trail system for beach access and for affording views from the dune. All of the other trails in the area will be closed and blocked off to allow for restoration efforts to succeed.

Other landowners want to continue to use ORVs to access the beach on a trail from the residential area to the beach. The County is willing to work with these landowners for a multiuse trail to the beach. However, it will depend on what is allowed in the permit from MDEQ.

The project will entail blocking the other existing ORV trails to keep the ORVs off of the restoration areas. The County will also work with local and county authorities to help police this area as trespassing, alcohol and drug use and other inappropriate behaviors of visitors continue to be a concern of the residents.

The county committed to $88,500 for local match. However, much of this will be money from the Van Buren Conservation District. After the public hearing, the County approved submitting the grant proposal to MDNR which is due on April 1.

Pilgrim Haven

On Wednesday, March 26, the South Haven Area Recreation Authority (SHARA) and Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy jointly hosted a public hearing on proposed improvements at Pilgrim Haven Park and approved submitting the project to the MNRTF.

Pilgrim Haven Park - Proposed Phase 1

Pilgrim Haven Park – Proposed Phase 1

Phase 1 will provide a barrier-free overlook, a ramp to the beach, accessible parking, and planting of new trees to create an oak savannah plant community. The project budget is $100,000 of which $50,000 is to be local match.

Click here to enlarge plan.

See two previous posts for more information: Syndicate Park and Pilgrim Haven.

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One Response to Hearings Held for Recreation Areas

  1. Why are provisions for ORV access to the beach being proposed for Syndicate Park? 

    Critical dune areas (CDAs) are off-limits for ORVs. Neighbors up and down the beach may refuse to give permission for ORVs to operate on their beaches. If property owners withhold permission, ORV owners have no right to operate on private property (which extends to the waters edge). 

    Where then will the ORVs go. Will they just trespass on private property, or destroy the dunes in the CDA, or operate only on the ORV trail and the Syndicate Park beach?

    To clarify property owners’ and ORV operators’ rights, the Michigan Supreme Court stated on page 5 of its Glass v Goeckel & Goeckel opinion:

    “We hold, therefore, that defendants cannot prevent plaintiff from enjoying the rights preserved by the public trust doctrine. Because walking along the lakeshore is inherent in the exercise of traditionally protected public rights of fishing, hunting, and navigation, our public trust doctrine permits pedestrian use of our Great Lakes, up to and including the land below the ordinary high water mark. Therefore, plaintiff, like any member of the public, enjoys the right to walk along the shore of Lake Huron on land lakeward of the ordinary high water mark.”

    Later in its opinion (page 36) the court clarifies its intent and the extent of the opinion:

    “By no means does our public trust doctrine permit every use of the trust lands and waters. Rather, this doctrine protects only limited public rights, and it does not create an unlimited public right to access private land below the ordinary high water mark. See Ryan v Brown, 18 Mich 196, 209 (1869). The public trust doctrine cannot serve to justify trespass on private property. Finally, any exercise of these traditional public rights remains subject to criminal or civil regulation by the Legislature.”

    The pulic cannot camp, picnic, play frizbee, land a boat, ride an ORV on or make use of private property on the lakefront without the property owner’s permission.  

    To read the entire supreme court opinion click here

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